Celebrating Pride beyond the 30th June

Every year, Pride is a month of huge celebration. It puts the spotlight on the contributions the LGBTQIA+ community make to our world, helps people celebrate our differences and what makes us all unique and makes us all stop and think about how we can make the world a better and safer place for those who face discrimination every day.

And while the month itself brings so many positives, it’s also vital to remember that we shouldn’t be comfortable with the fact that the rights of LGBTQIA+ community have in some instances improved since the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. Indeed, over 50 years later, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender is still rife and there is so much more we can do to eliminate it.

It’s incredibly important that during Pride month and beyond that we remember that we are part of a bigger picture, a bigger picture that already is, and will continue to, invoke and inspire change. So, while change is happening, there are still a lot of backwards steps taking place, that have profound effects on the LGBTQIA+ family.

Last month, the Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for all LGBTQIA+ Americans. In the UK, we have slipped to 17th out of 49 European countries in a league table compiled by Rainbow Europe based on how the laws and policies of each country impact on the lives of LGBTQIA+ people, from a previous ranking of 14th.

In 2022, transgender hate crimes in the UK reached record highs and increased by 56% on the previous year while sexual orientation hate crimes also increased by 41%.

At Vanti, we know that as a society, a business and the wider tech industry need to do more to inspire change. As a business we strive to provide a working environment which acts as a safe space for everybody, regardless of their culture or background. We pride ourselves on being a team which genuinely cares for each other.

But for Maddie Smith, an openly lesbian member of our Service department, the sense of belonging and the ability to be herself she finds at Vanti isn’t something she has always experienced at previous workplaces.

“At Vanti I feel really lucky to be part of a team which has a genuine concern for LGBTQIA+ issues and wants to play a role in educating our team and those in our wider network about our rights”

“In previous roles I’ve come across discrimination of different types. I’ve overheard colleagues using derogatory language and making discriminatory comments when they think I haven’t been listening which was incredibly distressing. Rather than speaking about it like adults afterwards and after I had confronted the team about it, the attitude was to try and brush it under the carpet, which made me feel like who I was didn’t matter, and that my opinions and feelings weren’t being respected, which is a horrible position to be in”

Maddie thinks one of the biggest obstacles to this is education and a fear of open conversation. So how do we move forward?

“Education is the biggest barrier by far. I think we all need to have more open conversations with each other and as a wider industry so we can all increase our understanding and ultimately promote the technology industry as an industry which welcomes the LGBTQIA+ community with open arms.

“I think some businesses and individuals are fearful of offending people by misspeaking or saying the wrong thing. Ultimately the conversations about LGBTQIA+ issues are welcomed by everyone and as long as the intention is positive, we’re happy to educate people on the right ways to approach them.

“Without talking openly about the issues we face or maybe dismissing some of the myths about our community, we’ll never really embrace total inclusivity and diversity.”

For Maddie, it has taken a while for her to find a company where she feels she can bring her full self to work without the fear of being judged or experiencing discrimination. So what advice would she give to younger people who might just be entering the world of work for the first time and are experiencing the same feelings?

“I would encourage anyone who might be going through the same issues I have faced to really take the time to research into the company you’re working or interviewing for, ask questions about the culture in your interview and stop to think, can I be allowed to thrive as my true authentic self here. There is so much more talk about LGBTQIA+ rights now compared to 10 or even five years ago, and there are more companies who take them seriously now than ever.

“There’s also a huge amount of networking groups and organisations who are great at bringing people together. In Birmingham we have Rainbow Bridge, the Alliance Network and Out of Office and there’s others across the tech scene as well, and they are brilliant for meeting people with shared experiences, so getting involved with them is a great first step.”